There's no substitute for regular workouts, but some days you just don't have the time. The good news is that you're not doomed to pack on extra pounds just because exercise doesn't always fit into your schedule. Even small amounts of physical activity add up when you repeat them throughout the day. Plus, boosting your metabolism with the right foods can help you protect your physique--or even lose weight--when the gym isn't an option that day.
You know those people who seem to eat whatever they want, never work out and yet don't gain a pound? They may be fidgeting the fat away. According to a number of recent studies, people who engage in spontaneous physical activity--otherwise known as fidgeting--tend to weigh less and are less likely to gain weight over time. To rev up your calorie burn, tap your fingers on the desk as you talk on the phone, wiggle your feet as you type or shift positions in your seat every few minutes. Although most fidgeters are genetically predisposed to move more than their sedentary counterparts, you can train yourself to jiggle off those extra calories instead of sitting still.
Find Excuses to Walk
While the average supermarket shopper may circle the parking lot several times in hopes of landing an up-front spot, using those minutes to move your legs is a better choice for your metabolism. Drive straight to the farthest spot from the front door, and walk briskly across the lot. If the store is only a few blocks from your home, consider ditching the car altogether and letting your own two feet get you there.
Also, don't fall into the trap of taking the elevator or escalator to go up or down a few floors. Seek out the stairs instead to burn more calories and help shape your legs and buttocks, as well.
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While all foods contribute to your daily caloric intake, some will elevate your metabolism for brief periods of time. Caffeine is one example. While experts aren't sure exactly how it works, caffeine helps your body burn calories faster and has a thermogenic effect, meaning it raises your basal body temperature. Coffee, green tea and black tea are all healthy caffeinated options, but it's important not to load these beverages with cream, sugar or flavored syrups--adding additional calories will negate any burning effects.
If you like it hot, sprinkle chili pepper flakes onto soups, salads and pastas, or slice up some jalapenos, habaneros or Thai chilies and use them for garnish. The heat comes from a compound called capsaicin, which offers a temporary increase in calorie burning.
Of course, no tactics will make up for poor eating habits. If you're serious about weight control, eat sensible portion sizes and forgo fast food and sugary soft drinks. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins is the best way to stay thin.
Nina Kate is a certified fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also studied journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has contributed to numerous major publications as a freelance writer. Nina thrives on sharing nutrition and fitness knowledge to help readers lead healthy, active lives. Visit her wellness blog at BodyFlourish.com.